Late last year, Dread Nautical was released on the Apple Arcade gaming service. Now this cartoonish RPG from Zen Studios finds its way onto consoles and PC. Is it worth checking out now that it’s available on more platforms?
The game tasks players with solving the mystery of the events on the cruise ship they’re on while battling monsters in a turn-based format. There are four main characters to choose from, each with their own special abilities and starting attributes. As you plunge further into the ship’s decks, you can recruit additional party members with their own unique capabilities. These characters add to the player’s advantage by having more firepower, inventory slots, and overwhelming enemies by attacking them from all sides. Dread Nautical’s difficulty isn’t too steep for those familiar with similar turn-based games such as XCOM or Darkest Dungeon. Despite this, the difficulty really increases about halfway through. But is it worth making it that far or beyond?
Even though there are some positive aspects to the game, the negative elements obscure them. In general, the game feels clunky. Free movement, turns in combat, conversations, and menu navigation all feel slower and less crisp than they should. The graphics have a cartoonish aesthetic to them, but it doesn’t feel distinct or pleasing to look at. For example, the first human character that you interact with has massive forearms that look weird given the shape of the rest of his body. This applies in some shape or fashion to the majority of the characters that end up looking more like caricatures. The story and in-game dialogue are problematic as well. The narrative isn’t entertaining enough to spend time with conversations, and speaking to side characters about their perception of the ship and its inhabitants doesn’t feel crucial.
The game does get going after a few levels when you’re able to upgrade your home base and party members. I especially enjoyed that Fargo Drexler, the main character I chose, sounds like a combination of Mike Ehrmantraut from Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul and Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca.
At the end of the day, Dread Nautical suffers from repetition, a big spike in difficulty, and a clunky interface. It’s really a tough one to recommend. As mentioned earlier, XCOM or Darkest Dungeon are a much better use of your time. Unless you are looking for a watered down (pun intended) and less enjoyable version of those games, steer clear (another pun intended) of this one.